Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finger Pointing

It didn't take long in the wake of Penn State's collapse Saturday night on National TV for the finger pointing to begin. And we all know the usual suspects--it's like a police lineup trying to identify the culprit.

Suspect #1: Strength & Conditioning Program

PSU 1960
Is it my imagination or do most of the PSU players seem to be smaller (muscles) than many D1 competition. It just seem that I look at some other teams players and they seem bigger than ours. Also, I look at players that leave PSU and go to the NFL and they seem to get much bigger in the first year. Is it more time in the weight room, supplements or a different type of lifting program.

Suspect #2: The O-line

PSU had recruited very well in the past 4 years except for OL. And it shows.

The only time our OL is good is when it is full of seniors. We have a number of highly rated recruits that take way too much time to develop. I watch other programs with youngsters on the OL, and somehow they can do the job. Why is that so much different at PSU?

Suspect #3: Coaching: Jay Paterno

Ever notice the good PSU quarterbacks of the past 20 years? Colins and Robinson...One year as the starter. Actually every single quarterback who played more then one year degressed after their first season and prime example is Mills who got worse every year. Clark in his second season is not disappointing me with my theory of Jay ruining quarterbacks that start more then one season. Jay finds a way to ruin quarterbacks.

Suspect #4: Coaching: Joe Paterno

RIP Spread HD, we hardly knew ye! Joe Paterno main suspect...

Can we put paterno back in the booth?

I'll begin by saying that I love Joe Paterno and everything that he has done for Penn State football and for Penn State University. No coach has ever done more for his/her University, and no one person has ever meant more to Penn State. I'll also preface by saying that I was one of the staunch supporters when all of the "JoeMustGo.com" websites and media bashing was happening earlier this decade.However, as I woke yesterday and began reading some of the complaints about the game, it became obvious who was at the center (and who the cause was) of many of them.The complaints are generally the same after losses such as Saturday night:1) Conservative play calling in a big game.2) Play not to lose, instead of play to win.3) Loyalty to assistant coaches (Anderson and Kenney) despite lack of success.4) Loyalty to upperclassmen over more talented underclassmen (Mills over MRob, Morelli over Clark, Hull over ?), Wagner over Fera.5) Bend but don't break defense.6) Subpar special teams/no designated special teams coach.

Suspect #5: The Officials


Sorry: They Call The Personal Foul In The Flat / There's No Punt Blocked! Of course we could fumble or throw an interception the next play. And there's absolutely no way of knowing how the game would have played out, pro or con.But we would have been deep in Iowa territory with the 15 yards and even if we got nothing out of it, we'd be protecting the 10-5 lead and gain tremendous field position.And there was nothing.....nothing.....Saturday night to even hint that Iowa could sustain an 80 yard drive on PSU's D.

Suspect #6: The Schedule

iowa had 3 tough games (granted 1st game shoudn't have been)...we go down 11-10 and then proceed to turn it over on 3 straight possessions...think the loss had something to do with the fact that we played 3 teams who shoudn't be on the field with us?

Suspect #7: Special Teams

It really comes down to one thing - field position,….which leads to a bigger issue for PSU (special teams).

How many times has the breakdown/poor play of one of our special teams units is the root cause of a PSU loss. It's been happening since the 1993 game vs UM, when their WR took a punt back for a TD that broke open a close game. We lost the Big Ten title in 96 because of a punt return by Tim Dwight (1 pt loss to Iowa). There was the Wisconsin game in 03(?), where Calvin Lowry fumbled 2 returns. Breaston for UM returing a kick 50+ yds in 05 (to go aong with Kelly's 3 missed FGs). Benn for Ill costing us a game returning a kick off for a TD in 07. Over and over again through our years in the Big Ten, our lousy special teams cost us. When was the last time we blocked a FG? '99 vs Pitt?

Suspect #8: The fans

How can someone go to the game..knowing it's a "white out" and show up in green,yellow, orange or any other color than white? Everyone has known about the white out for almost a year? Come on now.

The Superstition Thread: What did you do to cause the loss? Whenever I leave my place I wear a different hat than the last time I left. I was up at 5 AM and out the door by 5:30 yesterday morning to attend to duties at Paternoville. I returned around 9 AM to grab some gloves, but I failed to go to the next hat in my rotation because the next hat up is a blue one and I didn't want to be "that guy" in the white out with a blue hat.A friend of mine texted me after the game and said she took responsibility because she didn't wear her Stef Wiz jersey for the first time in his 25 games as a PSU player yesterday.jrtfootball06 told me on the way home that he's retiring a Nike hat he bought last year because the two times he's worn it we've lost: the Rose Bowl and yesterday.

To be fair, the truth lies somewhere within all these issues--each aspect contributed in some way, except perhaps the fans. I was also disppointed by the number of orange, green and camo ponchos, but I seriously doubt that affected the outcome of the game.

Some fans (not listed here) also opine that the transfer of Devlin has played a huge role, given the fact that the coaches appear to be protecting Clark more (less running means less hits and less chance of injury). Was that situation mishandled? Personally, I am not a big fan of the platoon system, but this is a case where it might have been ideal. The times the system has failed, at least at Penn State, is when the playcalling wasn't adapted to the individual QB or one or both of the QBs was not very good.

But Devlin had real game time experience and skills, and brought a different dimension to the game as a drop back passer. Fo whatever reason, the coaches--orperhaps Joe alone--opted to put all the eggs in one basket, even if it meant losing Devlin.

But that alone did not cause us to lose.

This was a team loss that highlighted a lot of chronic problems at Penn State. We fans had high expectations, and perhaps undeservedly so. I saw one conservative messageboard poster make a comment before the season that this was the first year in his 30-40 years as a fan that he thought PSU would reload. Well, if reloaded, it was with blanks instead of live ammunition.

But I believed him--before the season. I thought the line would gel. I thought losing our placekicker wouldn't be a big issue. I thought our special teams would find a way to overcome not having a dedicated coach. I thought having an experienced senior QB would make a difference--positive that is, rather than a detriment.

I still can't figure out why PSU can't field a decent OL more than once every 3-4 years. Other teams lose players to injury and graduation, yet maintain at least average line quality. It has to be coaching--both in recruiting and developing players. The pattern is just too clear to be anything else. Good lines in 94, 97, 99, 02, 05, 08. In between--not so much. Interesting isn't it, that those years tend to be our best years in w/l percentage. Maybe we should be paying more attention to this part of the game.

This will be a difficult week for the coaches. How do you pick up the pieces and put them together? Unfortunately, knowing the history of PSU football, not much will change. Paterno will be convinced he was a play or two away--maybe he was maybe he wasn't, but if you didn't put a point on the board after the second possession that argument isn't really believable. Perhaps he would be better served to believe his team was a mistake or two away from winning, but even that may be stretching the imagination.

If he can't admit there is a problem, then he won't have any motivation to fix it. He sees no need for a special teams coach, so we will continue to have porous coverage, poor field position, punting blunders, and FGs on a prayer.

I had a bad feeling which began in the second quarter. I was helpless to do anything about it, but I was overcome with a sense that we wouldn't win this game. And how could that be? Home field advantage. Better recruiting. More experienced coaching (Paterno has lost more games than Ferentz has even coached!) Even the oddsmakers thought we would win. It simply wasn't meant to be.

One poster asked this question: When did it really happen that Penn State no longer played for National Championships? His answer: 1994 (or when we joined the Big Ten. That certainly has made the road to a MNC more rocky, but the BCS system has not helped either. Even an undefeated season (like Utah last year) doesn't guarantee you a spot. Even if we had gone undefeated this year, our strength of schedule may have kept us outside looking in. But the greater issue is this: why can't Joe put together an undefeated season? We can all argue until we're blue in the face about the debacle in Ann Arbor in 2005, but the reality was that we didn't put that team away--we allowed the refs to influence the game--our special teams failed to contain Breaston on the KO and our prevent D prevented us from winning. (I still think we would have pulled it out if it weren't for the bad calls, though!)

We have won only TWO Big Ten openers in this decade, and only two conference titles. How can you expect to play for National Titles when you can't take care of business in the conference?

And I fear I have rambled too long.

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